'Am I doing it right?': Exploring the practice of supervising master's dissertation students

MacFadyen, Ann (2016) 'Am I doing it right?': Exploring the practice of supervising master's dissertation students. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Abstract

Students undertaking taught master’s programmes comprise the largest group within postgraduate education. Dissertation supervision is recognised as being a key influence on student attainment, but there is relatively little research into this aspect of academic practice (Bruce and Stoodley, 2013).

This action research project, which involved collaboration with 25 master’s dissertation supervisors in health and education, identified that it is one of the aspects of the job that even experienced academics feel least prepared for and worry about.

In order to enable them to articulate their previously untapped expertise of supervision, I created a ‘communicative space’ (Kemmis and McTaggert, 2005) in which academics shared their experiences, reflected with one another on the nature of supervision, and developed materials for new supervisors. They recognised that supervisory expertise is not a definable body of knowledge but a process which involves situational judgement. Together we articulated five key messages for other supervisors which outline the complexities involved in this role. Building upon these findings, I constructed a new three sided model, which conceptualises the process of supervision.

The new model developed through my research explains how these supervisors practice, using a holistic approach to promote students’ development. The core element is the supervisor’s ongoing assessment of a student’s readiness, motivation and individual situation. In response to this assessment, supervisors balance three functions in promoting student growth: Facilitating, Nurturing and Maintaining Standards. Facilitating encourages student growth through challenge or stimulation. Nurturing involves the provision of support and reassurance within a safe space in which this growth can occur. Maintaining standards ensures that academic and professional rigor are preserved.

The key messages and new model contribute to the established knowledge within supervisory pedagogy and are of benefit both in the preparation of new supervisors and for future development of this academic practice.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: X900 Others in Education
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Nursing, Midwifery and Health
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Becky Skoyles
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2018 11:02
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2019 12:15
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/36120

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